Monday, September 14, 2009

Coraline (Review)

     I recently had the opportunity to rewatch “Coraline” in 3D at the Alamo Drafthouse. Before I go any further, let me comment on the Alamo Drafthouse. If you have the privilege of living near the Austin area, (Texas, that is) you are missing out if you don't see a movie at any of the four Alamo Drafthouses.  Three of the four are original Drafthouses, an Austin institution for over a decade, and despite the fact that the fourth one is a franchise, I can personally vouch for it. The Alamo Drafthouse is a unique movie going experience. Movies, good food, a wide selection of beer and other potent potables, no commercials before the movies, and unique pre show entertainment, not to mention a generally cool and laid back Austin attitude.  If you only go to see a first run movie, you have only scratched the surface of the Drafthouse experience. I could go on and on, but I'll stop gushing there. If you really want to know more, there is a link above and RSS feeds from the Drafthouse on the right of the page.

     Now, “Coraline”. Based on a novella by Neil Gaiman, who is well known for, rather graphic, graphic novels, as well as some recent, spooky children's books, and directed by Henry Selick of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" fame, “Coraline” is not your typical kiddie flick. Young children should not see this movie. It'll only frighten them. However, for children mature enough to handle a little bit of scary stuff, and for adults of all ages, "Coraline" is an amazing experience and a great film. Now, I don't say stuff like "adults of all ages" lightly. This is not like most kids films, where the kids are entertained, but not really challenged, and the adults are bored with the overly simplistic plot and occasionally entertained by some off color jokes that go over the kids’ heads, you hope. "Coraline" is a very well made and developed movie. Great writing, great direction, great voice acting, a really solid script, and visually, this movie is stunning. The film is shot entirely in stop motion animation, using miniature puppets, and augmented in places with a little bit of CGI, in 2-D, "Coraline" is truly an amazing visual experience. However, in 3-D, well, I was blown away. I can say, without a doubt, that this movie is the only one to date that has used this new 3-D technology correctly. All the other 3-D, animated kids movies to date, computer animated, every one of them, don't do 3-D well, mainly because a computer generated image is, well, flat, and you have to fake the third dimension. Other live action movies, well, they use it as a gimmick. "Coraline", however, was the perfect vehicle for 3-D. The little puppets and miniature, handmade sets, are all in three dimension to begin with. They translate over very well and allow a world of miniature puppets seem quite real. Also, most of the 3-D is inside the screen, not popping off the screen into your face. There are a few, brief moments like that, but they are all appropriate for the action on the screen and don't take you out of the movie. Rather, they draw you in. Well, except for the needle in the opening sequence, but you can forgive one 'ohh ahh' moment in the opening title sequence before the movie has really started. If you have the opportunity to see this movie, in a theater, in 3-D, do it. You will not be disappointed. (You will be disappointed with the DVD 3-D. Just skip that.)

     "Coraline" is a modern day fairy tale, done in the tradition of Grimm's fairy tales, about a maybe 12 year old girl, Coraline Jones, voiced by Dakota Fanning, who has just moved into an aging boarding house with her parents, voiced by Teri Hatcher and John (I'm a PC) Hodgman, and is utterly bored and alone. Her parents work at home as writers and are trying to finish a gardening catalog that they are desperately behind on, so, at the moment, they have little time for their daughter. The new neighbors are elderly and eccentric or just plain odd, and it seems to be raining most of the time, confining Coraline to the inside of a old house with very little to do. That is, until, she finds a small, mysterious door that leads to another world; a world where everything is the same, except better. However, this other, better world comes at a price, and Coraline soon finds herself fighting to save herself, her parents, and the ghosts of other children trapped there. Truly, a wonderful story, a great movie, an incredible experience in 2-D, and an absolute must see in a theater in 3-D.

     I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the other voice talent in this movie. Robert Bailey Jr. does an excellent job as Wybie Lovat, the slightly weird neighbor kid who, initially, irritates Coraline to no end. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, of British comedy fame, do an incredible job as Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, former British (bawdy) stage actresses, who are now well past those days but still maintain a love of theater. Keith David provides a wonderfully mellow baritone voice to Wybie's pet cat, who only talks in the 'other' world, maintaining a separation of real and magical realms. And Ian McShane, from HBO's Deadwood and, more recently, NBC's Kings, lends his incredible voice talent to the Amazing Mr. Bobinsky, a former Russian acrobat who is now, supposedly, training a mouse circus in his attic apartment. Credit, ultimately, must go to Henry Selick though, for directing all of these incredible voice talents. This, once again, isn't your typical kiddie film, where a couple of top name comedians go nuts on the mic for a few days and they write half the movie around their manic style. Henry Selick took years to record carefully directed voice work from each of his actors and got, from each one, a magnificent performance.

     Ok, I should end this review, but I have one more thing to say. Not only is this a kids movie that is actually enjoyable to adults, and enjoyable on an adult level, (parents may even be scared a bit, but not by what scares their children) but it is also one of those rare children's movies that has real characters in it. The adults act like adults, not arch stereotypes or like children themselves, and the kids act like kids. This is a huge departure from any Disney film you've ever seen and nothing like most kids movies. It is so rare to get a kids movie with real, believable characters in it that it is worth mentioning.

     If you get the opportunity, watch "Coraline." If you get the rare opportunity to see it in 3-D, don't hesitate. You won't be disappointed.

No comments:

Post a Comment